A team could have all the offensive explosiveness in the world, but solid pitching is the key to a championship run.

Here are five of the best starting rotations in Division II.

MERCYHURST

There’s a reason Joe Spano’s Lakers have been able to ascend to the top spot in DII. Pitching, pitching and more pitching.

RELATED: Matt Minnick settling in as Lakers’ ace

As a staff, Mercyhurst has a DII best 2.00 ERA while striking out nearly 11 batters per nine innings. The rotation that leads that staff is armed with Baseball America’s Preseason Pitcher of the Year Matt Minnick.

Minnick has delivered this season going 4-1, striking out 32 and walking just eight while posting a 2.35 ERA over his five starts. He isn’t alone however. Vincenzo Lucente is undefeated in his four starts with a 1.83 ERA. Russell Lamovec is also undefeated through five starts with a 1.99 ERA. Chris Vallimont is 6-1 over seven starts with a 2.43 ERA, striking out an incredible 60 batters in just 37 innings. And when Connor Ryan was called upon to make three starts, he went undefeated with a 1.59 ERA.

Each pitcher is averaging at least a strikeout per inning, and none have an ERA above 2.50. Mercyhurst’s biggest advantage is their depth as they don’t have to rely on an ace.

MINNESOTA STATE

Like Mercyhurst, the Mavericks rotation is five deep, making them very dangerous. The starters anchor a pitching staff that finds themselves in the Top 10 in nearly every statistical category.

Minnesota State’s 2.42 ERA, 9.76 strikeouts-per-nine, 1.16 WHIP and 3.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio are all amongst DII’s best. 

Individually, none of their five regular starters have an ERA eclipsing 2.67. Dalton Roach has been the most impressive, sitting at 7-0 with a 1.36 ERA, striking out 83 batters in just 53 innings. That’s a whopping 14.09 strikeouts-per-nine, a Top 5 ranking in DII. Most impressive stat? Roach has as many walks as wins over that same span.

Perhaps most impressive was the inspiring run that Brody Rodning put together in March. Motivated by the tragic loss of a teammate and his mother, Rodning threw three consecutive complete game shutouts between March 18th and April 1st, striking out 24 and walking just 6. He has cooled off since then, but has served as an inspiration to the entire staff as they remain a Top 20 team in DII.

CHICO STATE

The Wildcats have a three-headed monster atop their rotation that can hang with anyone in the DII. Backed by a defense that boasts the best fielding percentage, they simply need to throw strikes to get the job done.

More: Chico State playing inspired ball for fallen teammate

Casey Costello is a finesse pitcher that does just that. He won’t strike out many batters (just 39 in 62.2 innings) but he won’t allow runs either. Costello is a perfect 9-0 with a 1.72 ERA. Joining him in the rotation is Cam Greenough and Hunter Haworth who have combined to go 11-2 with a 2.35 ERA.

Where Chico State falls short of their competitors is depth, as their Big Three are the primary starters. Still, their bullpen provides the relief they need as this pitching staff finds itself in the top-10 in ERA while leading DII with a 1.10 WHIP.

WEST TEXAS A&M

The Buffs don’t have much depth and rely heavily on their bullpen. Marshall Kasowski and Joshua Payne have made 19 starts in the team’s 36 games, accounting for 14 of the Buffs' 27 wins.

That’s ok though, because they are incredible pitchers.

One thing that the entire West Texas A&M pitching staff can do is strike people out. They are doing it at a DII-best 11.93 strikeouts-per-nine. Kasowski has done it better than anyone else, striking out a DII-best 118 batters in 61.1 innings, a remarkable 17.32 strikeout-per-nine rate, also tops in DII. The 6-foot-4 junior is 7-2 with a 1.91 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP as one of the best pitchers DII has to offer.

Payne has earned a decision in each of his nine starts, going 7-2 with a 2.52 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP. He too strikes out opposing hitters by the boatload, racking up 12.18 per nine, 24th in DII.

The Buffs are helped out by spot starters Noah Draper and Ryan Larison. They lead a staff that is Top 10 in nearly every category, leading DII in strikeouts per nine.

MOUNT OLIVE

Zimmerman has been a senior leader for the Mount Olive rotation.
Mount Olive Athletics
Zimmerman has been a senior leader for the Mount Olive rotation.
Mount Olive has five pitchers they can turn to for starts, but their senior aces have paced the rotation.

Lefty Bruce Zimmerman is 8-1 with a 2.71 ERA and an impressive 12.50 strikeout-per-nine rate. Righty Austin Hutchinson is 10-0 with a 1.19 ERA, striking out over a batter per inning himself. Most impressively, he has thrown six complete games, helping out in Mount Olive’s DII-best nine shutouts.

Brighton Hudson is their third primary starter, but Trey Pate and Braxton Shetley have made six starts a piece adding to their depth. Together the staff is amongst DII’s Top 15 in ERA (3.09), WHIP (1.26) and strikeouts-per-nine (9.56).

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

New Haven: The Chargers may have one of the more unheralded pitching staffs in DII. While it is a combined effort, including their bullpen, starters Tim Kennedy and David Palmer lead a staff that is in the Top 10 in ERA, WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Le Moyne: The Dolphins are another under-the-radar rotation because their team is unranked. Sean Pisik (6-1, 1.09 ERA and 9.95 strikeouts-per-nine) anchors a rotation that has their pitching staff in the Top 15 in ERA (2.73), WHIP (1.24) and shutouts (5).

Tampa: Tampa is one of the most well balanced teams in the country, finding themselves in the Top 10 in batting average at the plate (.338) and WHIP on the mound (1.21). You just can't rule out Joe Urso's club from the postseason or one of Sam Militelo's pitching staffs to get them there. The staff's 3.57 ERA is also in the Top 25 in DII as they seem to be coming alive at the right time.